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Understanding Common Terms in Family Law

Personal Injury Attorneys

As our personal injury attorneys can attest, family is everything. When you are injured, your family is hurt too. But, sometimes interactions with your spouse can be hurting your family as well, so you may decided to separate. Family law can be one of the most contentious legal practice areas. Adding to the frustration is legal jargon that is often overwhelming to non-legal professionals. According to a family law lawyer from our friends at Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC, below is an overview of commonly asked-about family law terminology and abbreviations to help the layperson better understand their legal proceedings. 

What is SAPCR?

SAPCR is an abbreviation for Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. A SAPCR establishes the specifics of the legal parent-child relationship – child support, medical support, visitation rights, custody schedules, etc. SAPCRs are designed to see to the best interest of the children involved and are automatically applied in divorces involving children, though can be filed at any time by a caregiver who meets certain legal requirements. 

What is Conservatorship?

While this term is foreign to many people, “conservatorship” is just what custody is called in Texas. Conservatorship is created via court order and, without one, parents have limited legal resources to combat decisions made by the other parent which they disagree with.

Generally, parents end up in a  “joint managing conservatorship,” meaning that they share about equal decision making power over and rights to the children. Though, most often, only one parent will have the power to decide where the child lives. This person is the “custodial parent,” with the other parent being non-custodial. 

This stands in opposition to sole managing conservatorship. A sole managing conservator has generally exclusive control over decision-making relating to the child. This is common in situations where the other parent has violent tendencies, is suffering from drug addiction, or is absent from the child’s life. In these situations, the non-custodial parent is often a possessory conservator, meaning that they have limited rights to the child and are secondary to the sole managing conservator. 

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process, either voluntary or court-mandated, by which parties involved in a family law dispute can reach an agreement with the assistance of a third party mediator. If either party has retained counsel, attorneys may be present as well. Agreements reached during mediation are binding. If mediation is successful, trial is then unnecessary, saving both parties time and money. 

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

A guardian ad litem (GAL) is a person appointed by the court to investigate circumstances and represent the best interest of the child. This person works for the family law court, but is not required to be an attorney. GALs will typically interview the children, interview all parties involved in the family law dispute, review pertinent information, locations, and events and report to the judge what they believe the best course of action for the child to be. 

If you are in need of a family lawyer, contact one near you today for help!